When it comes to the venerable PDF document, Adobe Acrobat Pro is considered by many to be the golden standard for PDF creation tools. With the brand name recognition and long running track record of use in businesses all over, the software carries a very hefty price tag of $449.00. For those that want to use an effective alternative that won't break the bank, LULU Software has just the solution for you. Soda PDF 5 Pro is great for making and manipulating PDFs, at only a fraction of the cost of Adobe's Pro offering.
- Title: Soda PDF 5 Pro
- Company: LULU Software
- Product URL: http://sodapdf.com
- Supported OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8
- Price: $79.95 for Pro version ($99.95 with optional OCR add-on)
- Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5
- Bottom Line: A PDF tool that rules them all at a reasonable price is what LULU Software has given us in Soda PDF. Solid features and robust handling of PDFs is sure to make this a winner.
Soda PDF 5 Pro
The user interface is very similar to that of Microsoft Office 2013, borrowing heavily from the suite's Metro-ized interface. All the options and tools were right where I needed to find them without the need to dig through multiple submenus. You can create ready-to-fill forms for your clients, export any garden-variety PDF into DOC, XLS, HTML and TXT formats, and even secure and sign PDFs with a digital signature, just like you can with Adobe Acrobat Pro.
A neat feature that all editions of Soda PDF have is the ability to read PDF files like a magazine. For instance, you can grab one page and "turn" it much like you would if it was a real page, adding to a sense of realism in the action. If you are reading an eBook that is in PDF format or a comic book archive file, the tactile nature of a page turn is intuitive. It might even work on Windows 8 (x86 flavor) devices with touch displays, but I haven't been able to verify this myself.
During my test of the software, I did notice a few strange flaws or quirks that could cause annoyances. One problem was the lack of smooth scrolling pages when using the scroll wheel and another with the fact that data inserted into pre-made fields doesn't carry over at all when exporting directly to DOC, XLS or HTML formats.
Regarding the latter issue, it could have something to do with the fact that information within these fields are not considered persistent or permanent and are thusly ignored. A solution for this would be to "print" the document out as yet another PDF, then open the file back into Soda PDF. Once this is done, you can then export the document out into other formats, with everything included, WYSIWYG style.
Finally, if you are looking to distribute a document and want to limit file-size, Soda PDF does a great job in reducing file sizes using the optimize feature. You can adjust the size using a simple slider ranging from minimum to maximum quality, or you can fine tune the results of the output further by tweaking image sampling based on whether images contain color, grayscale or monochrome elements. The software does a great job striking the appropriate balance of retaining readability and crunching bits down to more manageable sizes.
So does LULU Software have a compelling package to offer PDF creators? I'd definitely say so. There's no question that it offers the right set of features at a price that is more affordable than Adobe's offering. Despite the slow downs and the esoteric handling of text typed into fields when exporting to alternate formats, you'd be crazy not to at least give the trial version a spin.
An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Customer Success Professional for Ultimate Software in Santa Ana, California.